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Employers should know that pregnant employees have protections

Some employers and employees know that pregnancy is treated differently than how one would expect. This is because there are several laws that specifically apply to pregnant workers, including a patchwork of federal, state and local laws. However, this post will focus on some of the most common questions for our Houston, Texas, readers.

Is pregnancy a disability?

No. Pregnancy itself is not a disability, but pregnancy-related impairments, which substantially limit the employee’s life functions can qualify as a disability. These include pelvic inflammation that limits the employee’s ability to walk. Pregnancy-related carpal tunnel syndrome would also qualify as a disability, just like CTS would normally qualify. Any pregnancy-related impairment can qualify as a disability as long as that impairment substantially limits a major bodily function.

Does that mean they can get a reasonable accommodation?

Yes. As most Houston, Texas, employees and employers know, a reasonable accommodation refers to a change in a workplace condition or policy that enables a disabled employee to perform the job’s essential functions. It is also to allow them to enjoy equal privileges and benefits of employment, like leave policies, company perks, etc. Reasonable accommodations are available to pregnant workers, if they are needed for some pregnancy-related impairment. This includes redistributing nonessential functions that the pregnant worker cannot perform while pregnant.

It also includes modifying workplace policies, like allowing for more frequent breaks, sitting while working, or keeping a water bottle at a workstation, even if these are all against normal corporate policies. Reasonable accommodations include modifying work schedules around severe morning sickness or medical appointments. A worker that is ordered to bed rest may now qualify for telework too, in addition to granting leave outside the normal sick leave policy. It also includes assigning pregnant employees to a light duty position. Remember, heavy lifting during pregnancy can cause miscarriages.

Does the Family and Medical Leave Act apply?

Most of the time, yes. The Family and Medical Leave Act provides pregnant worker protections, but it only applies to Houston, Texas, workplaces with 50 or more employees. FMLA provides 12 weeks of leave for the birth or adoption of a child, which includes time to care for that newborn child or pregnancy-related medical conditions.